Derek Schilling

Professor and Chair
Acting Director of Graduate Studies in the French Subdivision

Program: French
Gilman 426
Tuesday, 2:00- 3:30p.m.
Curriculum Vitae

Professor Schilling was educated in the United States (BA, Williams College 1992; MA, University of Pennsylvania, 1993) and in France (Paris IV/SBCJYF). In 1997 he completed a coordinated doctorate between the University of Pennsylvania and the Université Paris VIII (Vincennes/Saint-Denis) with a dissertation on the discourses of the quotidian in the work of Georges Perec.

Prior to joining the Hopkins faculty in 2012, Professor Schilling taught for 10 years at Rutgers University - New Brunswick, where he directed the graduate program in French from 2006 to 2010 and was a member of the executive board for Cinema Studies. Previous academic positions were held at Stanford University and at Reed College.

Professor Schilling has received grants from the NEH, DAAD (Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst), and the SPFFA (Société des professeurs français et francophones d’Amérique). He serves on the editorial boards of Hopkins’ own MLN, French Forum, Symposium, and French Review, for which he is a standing reviewer of works in literary criticism and film.

My scholarship bears primarily on modern and contemporary French literature, with an emphasis on socially conscious novels of the interwar period as well as on the experimental, generically hybrid fictions that have arisen since the 1950s. Central to my concerns as a reader and critic is the dialogue that literature entertains with an evolving spatial imaginary itself correlated to historical transformations of lived and built space. My secondary field is cinema esthetics and the history, ideology, and theory of filmic representation during the celluloid era.

In Mémoires du quotidien: les lieux de Perec, I examined the relation between postwar theoretical discourse on the everyday and everydayness and the “sociological” works of Georges Perec (1936-1982), who in compiling commonplaces of 1960’s and 1970’s French culture drew on the rhetorical notion of lieux de mémoire. His first novel Les choses (1965) exposes through deceptively simple means the clichés of an emergent consumer society fraught with contradiction. Later works of the 1970s, like Espèces d’espaces (1974), broach questions of habitat and habit, underscoring the need to revitalize public culture by questioning those elements of quotidian existence that appear to go without saying. The book argues that the strong autobiographical current in Perec’s work stands in productive tension with its ludic neohumanism and openness. If Perec’s investment in descriptions of place in such projects as “Lieux” was originally an oblique means by which to compensate for the absence created by the Shoah, the texts that resulted from these experiments enter into dialogue with key ideas that Henri Lefebvre, Maurice Blanchot, and Michel de Certeau were developing from the turn of the 1950s into the mid-1970s. The historical event recedes in the face of quotidian rhythms that for all its apparent banality is not without its human, formative character.

This early-career project led me to investigate more broadly the interrelationship between literary representations and lived space. In my work on modern and contemporary literatures in French, I am particularly interested in the ways in which narratives set up spatials contract with their readers based on various types of local or geographical recognition. How does the novelistic representation of space interact with the coordinates of collective memory or the “image” of a place at a given moment in its socio-historical development? How dense or sparse, how static or dynamic is the image of the diegetic world that we construct out of a text? Is the fact that the theory of fiction has long favored the temporal coordinates of narrative over the spatial ones a function of the ontology of fiction itself, or rather a methodological oversight? What I call narrative geopoetics aims to explore the inner workings of fiction with a mind to the particular ways of worldmaking these creative works instantiate.

In this domain, Banlieues de mémoire: essais de géopoétique sur le roman français de l’entre-deux-guerres, my forthcoming book on the interwar works of Céline, Queneau, Dabit, Simenon, and others analyzes representations of the Paris suburbs at a time marked by rational urban planning, the discourse on hygiene, and social activism. The work identifies constants in character trajectories, social types and conflicts, and themes through which an aggregate image of the interwar suburb comes to the fore, a suburb plagued with pauperization, social segregation and the political tensions attendant to the rise of the banlieue rouge. A fictive suburb overlaying the historic and social realities of the time shapes contemporary perceptions and provides imaginary (and often humorous) solutions to real-world problems.

Film esthetics and theory form my second field of specialization. The monograph Eric Rohmer (2007) explored the signal esthetic contribution of the French filmmaker (1920–2009), who translates André Bazin’s ontological realist legacy into a highly controlled yet sensuous approach to mise en scène. In contrast to many of his fellow travelers of the New Wave who highlighted the reflexive potential of cinema, Rohmer as a committed realist subordinates the telling of the story to the diegesis. This form of authorial discretion, through which the camera purports to capture the world without adulterating it, becomes in turn an mannered style all its own, one based on a luminous transparency and a sensitivity to all that is natural in a given setting, a sonic environment, a voice or a body.

Alongside work on the history of film esthetics proper, I take great interest in the interactions between screen representations and socio-cultural phenomena. A series of articles examines several French films produced in the early 1970s that began to address head-on the legacy of the Algerian War of Independence, by the likes of René Vautier, Yves Boisset, and Laurent Heynemann. A second project, with co-editor Philippe Met, looks at the long history of representations of the Paris suburbs on screen (Screening the French Suburbs Before the banlieue Film, forthcoming).


  • Introduction à la littérature II
  • Expériences-limites, textes-limites
  • Temps et récit dans le cinéma français
  • Thesis Prep
  • Senior Thesis


  • Esthétique et politique dans la France des années 50 et 60
  • L’entre-deux-guerres en toutes lettres
  • Les écritures contemporaines aux confins des genres
  • Fictions d’espace: géopoétique du roman de langue française
  • Film Theory and Critical Methods


Eric Rohmer, “French Film Directors” series, eds. Diana Holmes and Robert Ingram, Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 2007. Pp. 214.

Mémoires du quotidien: les lieux de Perec, Villeneuve d’Ascq: Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2006. Pp. 192.

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

Avoir vingt ans dans les Aurès de René Vautier: le cinéma militant face à la censure d’Etat au tournant des années 1970,” French Cultural Studies 22.2 (May 2011), 137-150.

“French Sociologies of the Quotidian: From Dialectical Marxism to the Anthropology of Practice,” in Michael Hviid Jacobsen (ed.), Encountering the Everyday: An Introduction to Sociologies of the Unnoticed (Houndmills and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 187-210.

“Le désœuvrement culturaliste,” in Steen Bille Jørgensen and Axel Ruth, eds., Les Défis de l’œuvre (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 2007), 21-34.

“Belated Jewish Modernism in France: Georges Perec’s Cult of Memory,” Modernism/Modernity 13.4 (Nov. 2006): 729-45.

“Narrativity and Theatricality in Rohmer’s Contes moraux and Comédies et proverbes,” Journal of Contemporary French and Francophone Studies (Sites), Vol. 9, No. 04 (Dec. 2005): 335-42.

Le chiendent entre histoire et fiction: les parfaits banlieusards de Raymond Queneau,” Romanic Review 95: 1-2 (Jan-March 2004): 41-61.

“Everyday Life and the Challenge to History in Postwar France: Braudel, Lefebvre, Certeau,” Diacritics, 33.1 (Spring 2003): 23-40.

“Aux bords de la zone: topographie de l’impur dans le Paris de l’entre-deux- guerres,” Jean-Jacques Vincensini, ed. Souillure et pureté: Le Corps et son environnement culturel (Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2003), 61-73.

“Tentative de description: villes perecquiennes”, Freeman Henry, ed., Imagined Geographies, French Literature Series XXX (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003), 137-50.

“Le récit, revu et corrigé par Thomas Bernhard”, in Pierre Chabert and Barbara Hutt, eds., Thomas Bernhard (Paris: Minerve, 2002), 265-74.

“La grande banlieue d’Eugène Dabit: essai de géopoétique historique”, Poétique 131 (Sept. 2002): 331-355.

“Queneau porte Chaillot: le savoir périphérique dans Pierrot mon ami,” Poétique 124 (Nov. 2000): 443-462.